MARVIN Johnson says the Oxford United players owe it to themselves, the staff and the supporters to keep battling to the very end of the season.

The U’s head to Walsall today knowing Wednesday night’s defeat to Fleetwood Town has all but ended their hopes of a Sky Bet League One play-off place.

Although a top-six place is still mathematically possible, United are relying on others to slip up, while almost certainly needing to win their last five matches.

Johnson is realistic about the prospects of hunting down their rivals, but says the players are determined the season will not end with a whimper.

“We will go into every game like it’s our last,” he said.

“We still have a very slim chance, but all we can try and do is win our games and see where it takes us.”

“It’s been a tough week for us all after losing at Wembley on Sunday and then against Fleetwood.

“But we are all determined to make sure we try and end on a high.”

He added: “The fans back us in great numbers and we will keep giving 100 per cent for them.

“In our next five fixtures every team has something to play for so it won’t be the end-of-season games that just peter out which will help us.

“We’ll be going all-out for wins and then see what happens.”

Head coach Michael Appleton admits the run-in will allow him to learn more about his players.

“It gives me an opportunity to experiment with a few people and maybe new formations and start really building towards next season,” he said.

“We will have played 62 games by the end of the campaign. You don’t play that many if you have not had a good season.

“There’s not been a season, or even half a season, since I’ve been here that we’ve not improved.

“And that is what we are striving for. That must continue.”

Appleton has no major injury concerns, but several players are carrying knocks.

Walsall will be without playmaker Erhun Oztumer (ankle).

But manager Jon Whitney could be boosted by the return of Eoghan O’Connell (hamstring), Amadou Bakayoko (groin) and Flo Cuvelier (ankle).


Walsall: from Etheridge, Laird, O’Connor, Preston, Chambers, Edwards, Osbourne, McCarthy, Moussa, Makris, Morris, Candlin, Jackson, Roberts, MacGillivray, Dobson, Cuvelier, Hayles-Docherty, Kinsella, O’Connell, Bakayoko.

Oxford Utd: from Eastwood, Carroll, Nelson, Dunkley, Johnson, Sercombe, Lundstram, Ledson, Hall, Maguire, Martinez, McAleny, Hemmings, Ruffels, Rothwell, Raglan, Ribeiro, Edwards, Long, Skarz, Stevens.